Reader question: Do I need a Covid vaccine booster shot to enter France?

A man receives a booster dose in France.
A man receives a booster dose in France. We take a look at whether these extra injections are needed for travel. (Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP)
The French government is pushing a booster dose campaign as one of its key strategies in the fight against Covid and has begun to deactivate the health passes of people who don't get a booster. But what is the situation for travellers?

Question: I plan to travel to France next week but have still not received a booster dose. Do I need to get one before I leave? 

France has a traffic light system for travel, with country’s listed as either green, amber or red. If you are unvaccinated, then you will face different restrictions on travel to France depending on what category country you are travelling from, so understanding what the French mean by ‘fully vaccinated’ is important and can make the difference between being allowed to travel or not. 

For now though, French border authorities are not taking into account whether or not you have had a booster dose.

This means that if you are vaccinated but haven’t received a booster dose, you will not face the extra travel restrictions which apply to unvaccinated people. 

The French Health Ministry told The Local: “a booster is not yet required to leave or return to France.” 

To count as fully vaccinated for travel purposes, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Have received a vaccine that is approved by the European Medicines Agency – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson (also known as Janssen). The Indian-produced Covishield vaccine is also now accepted by France 
  • Be at least seven days after the second injection for double-dose vaccines or after a single dose for those people who had previously had Covid-19
  • Be at least 28 days after the injection for people who had the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • People who have received a vaccine that is recognised by the World Health Organisation but not yet approved for use by the EMA can travel to France if they have had a ‘top up’ single dose of either Pfizer or Moderna 

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See also on The Local:

Both EU and non-EU vaccination certificates are accepted at the border.

The health pass 

However, although you can enter France without a booster, you may find your life curtailed once you are here.

In France, a health pass is required to access sites like bars, restaurants, cinemas and tourist sites such as museums and galleries – and a booster is required for a valid health pass.

From January 15th, anyone over the age of 18 who is visiting France is required to have had a booster dose within seven months of their last injection (or two months if they were vaccinated with Janssen) to use the health pass. Full details here.

From mid-February, visitors to France must have received a booster dose within four months (besides those vaccinated with Janssen for whom the two month limit remains) of their previous injection to be able to use the health pass. 

Those aged between 12 and 18 need to use the health pass, but they do not need a booster.

The French government also plans to transform the health pass into a vaccine pass – a change that could happen within weeks. This would mean that presenting a negative Covid test taken within the last 24 hours will no longer be accepted as a means to hold an active health pass – in other words, you will need to be fully vaccinated with a booster dose if you want to visit bars, cafés, restaurant, tourist sites and long-distance trains while you are in France.

If you’re coming to France to ski, a pass is also required in order to use ski lifts

Foreign vaccination certificates

If you were vaccinated in an EU country, your vaccination certificate and booster is fully compatible with the French health pass.

Those vaccinated outside the EU, however, will need to covert their vaccination certificates into a French code once they arrive in the country – here’s how

If you were vaccinated in England, Wales or Scotland, the NHS vaccination certificate is now compatible with the French health pass app, but there is a technical point you should be aware of:

NHS vaccination codes are only valid for 30 days and since the deactivation programme began, the Tous Anti Covid app also deactivates expired NHS codes, meaning that those vaccinated in the UK must download a new NHS code every 30 days and add it to the French app in order to keep their pass working.

If your pass is deactivated, here’s how to reactivate it.

Could booster doses soon become a requirement to enter France? 

Proposed EU rules that could come into effect from February 1st would mean that booster doses could soon be required to use the EU Digital Covid Certificate for travel between EU member states. 

The EU Commission approved the idea in December 2021 but it still needs to be agreed on by member states and the EU parliament.

It is proposed that people who want to use the EU Covid Digital certificate should get a booster dose within 9 months of their last injection (if their initial vaccination cycle is complete). 

This means receiving a third vaccine dose after receiving two doses of Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneca.

If you were injected with the Janssen vaccine, it would mean getting just one extra dose. 

The French government is not, as yet, proposing a booster requirement for arrivals from outside the EU.

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